Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - Year of the Wild


To sum up the year 2017 for the Zelda franchise in four words: Breath of the Wild! It's essentially all that needs to be said about the year. We waited for this game ever since its announcement in early 2013. And in the last four years we had a good ride, where Nintendo kept us entertained with various Zelda side projects and remasters: the Wind Waker HD, A Link Between Worlds, Hyrule Warriors, Majora's Mask 3D, Tri Force Heroes, Twilight Princess HD, Hyrule Warriors - Legends... There was a lot to play in the meantime, but we now finally got the main dish, the big new Zelda.

Naturally, Nintendo put a big focus on this game for the entirety of the year. No distractions, no other Zelda announcements, just Breath of the Wild and everything that came along with it. The new Zelda was probably Nintendo's largest and most expansive project yet and this is why it had to sell things. And selling things it did. While it was also released on the Wii U, Breath of the Wild was the driving launch title for the Nintendo Switch in March, Nintendo's new gaming system. For the Switch version there were the Master and Special Editions available in North America, as well as the Limited Edition in Europe. And as if this wasn't enough, Nintendo also released the "Explorer's Edition" for Black Friday together with a map and a guide book.

The game also sold amiibo on top of that. A series of nine Breath of the Wild amiibo got produced over the year: five at launch and the four Champions in November. Three additional Link amiibo in the Legend of Zelda series also got released in June and were mainly supported by this game. So, that's a total of twelve Zelda amiibo over the entire year, certainly a record...

And Breath of the Wild sold DLC, for the first time in the main series. With the Expansion Pass we got the Master Trials DLC Pack at the end of June and the Champions' Ballad DLC Pack just three weeks ago, so we had something to look forward to for the entirety of the year.

Meanwhile, two new Zelda Books have been released in Japan: Hyrule Encyclopedia and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Master Works, where the latter focuses entirely on artwork, concept and the creation process of Breath of the Wild. Both of these will likely make it to the West next year, where Hyrule Encyclopedia is scheduled to be released on April 28th, 2018 by the publisher Dark Horse.


Dawn of a New Year - 2018


The big event is over and it's only right to assume that we shouldn't expect much from the year 2018 in terms of Zelda. The main Zelda team probably just started developing a sequel to Breath of the Wild and we most likely won't see much about the game in the next two years. Koei Tecmo is still in the middle of developing DLC for Fire Emblem Warriors, where they might start to work on Hyrule Warriors 2 afterwards, if they haven't already. But we most likely won't see anything about this sequel in 2018 either. Grezzo has been hiring lately to develop a new legend and here are the chances better that we actually might see some of that. But it's still questionable, whether such a game will be released in 2018 already.

However, in May 2017 there have been rumors about a potential Smartphone Zelda game, to be released after the recent Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. If this holds true, it might become the main source of entertainment for Zelda fans in 2018, if they are already finished with Breath of the Wild. Nintendo has a tendency to regularly update their iOS/Android games with new contents, so such a title could again give us something to look forward to over the course of the year. In terms of classic top-down Zelda it's also possible that Nintendo might still release another Zelda game on the Nintendo 3DS based on the engine of A Link Between Worlds, but that's wishful thinking.

And Nintendo could continue to sell more Zelda amiibo, where Breath of the Wild would probably see one or two smaller updates as well... And it's still possible that Nintendo might release a Special Edition Nintendo Switch bundle for Breath of the Wild in 2018, with both the game and the DLC pre-installed.


Metroid in 2017 and 2018


As a side note, the Metroid franchise, Nintendo's other great Action Adventure series, finally saw its return in 2017 with the solid remake, Metroid: Samus Returns. In 2018 we will certainly learn more about the upcoming Metroid Prime 4, maybe the game even will be released in the same year. In any case it's also exciting times for Metroid fans.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Breath of the Wild: Expansion Pass Review


For the price of $19.99 / 19.99€ you can currently expand your experience of Breath of the Wild with two DLC Packs: The Master Trials and The Champions' Ballad. The packs can't be purchased individually for unknown reasons. Maybe most people bought the similar DLC bundles in case of Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8 anyway, so Nintendo saved themselves the trouble of selling the packs separately this time. But it's certainly disappointing for people, who might only want to have a part of the DLC, like a certain armor piece. Then they still have to go all in. In any case, both packs have been released by now and we can finally evaluate the DLC contents as a whole.

Breath of the Wild is actually the first main Zelda game that offers purchasable contents, yet the series still was no stranger to add-ons. Two years ago Tri Force Heroes received a free downloadable update with two new outfits and the Den of Trials, a multi-floor survival dungeon similar to the Savage Labyrinth or the Cave of Ordeals in past Zelda games. Shorty after, Twilight Princess HD added a similar dungeon to the game with the Cave of Shadows, as well as the Hero Mode difficulty and a Miiverse Stamp collectible quest. And adding content to the various Zelda remasters goes all the way back to 1998 with Link's Awakening DX, where they added the Color Dungeon and a new photo side quest that led to some new story moments.

The Expansion Pass of Breath of the Wild doesn't really re-invent the wheel here. It simply sells the same type of add-on contents that the series saw before: there are new armor pieces, a trial cave, new shrines, a way to re-battle bosses, a new dungeon and a new difficulty mode. There are also some new memories to view and a couple new challenges that lead to the shrines. What you shouldn't expect from the DLC are new areas to explore. Instead it adds more to existing areas in the game, making them feel less empty at times.


New Armor



The DLC adds a total of 18 new armor pieces to the game. This includes five new hats/masks, a new shirt and four complete sets of armor:

  • Korok Mask
  • Majora's Mask
  • Midna's Helmet
  • Zant's Helmet
  • Ravio's Hood
  • Island Lobster Shirt
  • Tingle Set
  • Phantom Armor Set
  • Phantom Ganon Set
  • Royal Guard Set

With two or three exceptions, these new armor pieces don't provide any new abilities or bonuses. Instead they simply copy existing ones, e.g. the Tingle Set works exactly like the Dark Link Set, which is funny. You also can't enhance any of them, so later in the game they are only there for the looks, because they won't provide the necessary defense. On the other hand, some of these items seem overpowered for how early you can find them in the game. Majora's Mask specifically combines the effects of all monster masks, making those completely obsolete, while you can find it right away after leaving the Great Plateau... And this doesn't seem like it was really thought through by Nintendo.

(On top of things, there isn't even enough space in the Armor Inventory to collect all the pieces anyway, so you have to sell some of it to make space. It feels like an oversight from Nintendo, which hopefully will get fixed in future updates.)


The way they added the armor to the game also wasn't really thoughtful. You simply get spammed with a series of new "EX" side quests that appear in your Adventure Log out of nowhere and that lead you to journals in various places. These journals then provide the locations, where you can find the treasure chests with the armor. If Nintendo wanted to be any lazier, they could have just dropped all those chests right in front of you after starting the game... Breath of the Wild didn't have many outstanding side quests to begin with, but the whole armor hunt even lowered the bar. It's the most lackluster feature of the DLC.

In the very least the new armor pieces all look very nice and add quite a high amount of fan service to the game with various costumes from past Zelda games.


Quality of Life for a Price



Probably the most interesting and useful new armor piece is the Korok Mask, which starts to react to nearby Koroks. The radius is quite limited, but it's still your best chance of finding all the Koroks in the game without the help of a guide. And it probably was an often requested feature before the DLC, which raises the question why this became DLC to begin with, instead of a feature in a free update.

It's similar with other additions in the DLC. The Hero's Path Mode lets you follow around the last 200 hours of movement on your map, which is certainly a useful feature for discovering areas, where something still might be hidden. Nintendo planned this feature from the beginning, where your movements got even recorded before the DLC was released, but you have to buy the DLC to actually see the data.


In addition there are the Travel Medaillon, which lets you set a personal teleport point on the overworld, and the Ancient Bridle and Ancient Saddle, where the latter lets you teleport your horse to your current location, so that you can finally summon wherever you are, much like you could with Epona in past games. Other than the fact that the rest of the horse gear basically became obsolete, these are all comfort features to improve the game for everyone, where you shouldn't have to pay for them. All of this could and should have been included in free updates, instead of being hidden behind a pay wall.


Trial of the Sword



As part of "The Master Trials", the DLC added floor-based survival dungeon to the game, where you have to defeat all enemies to proceed to the next floor. These have been featured in several Zelda games of the past, where the most prominent examples would be the Savage Labyrinth in the Wind Waker and the Cave of Ordeals in Twilight Princess. The "Trial of the Sword", however, is closer to the Den of Trials in Tri Force Heroes, where each floor has an individual layout and where the whole trial was divided in individual sections.

There are the Beginning, Middle and Final Trials with a total of 12, 16 and 23 floors respectively (including resting points). You can play all three parts individually without starting over from the beginning, which makes the whole thing much more bearable. The three trials themselves also have individual sections based on the various areas and themes in the game. For example you start the Beginning Trials in a forest area, but the second half places you in rooms full of water. Various assets from the overworld have been use to build these rooms, which creates a unique look in the game thanks to the shrine visuals, where you normally wouldn't find things like Bokoblin camps or even trees.


The trials can be entered by pushing the Master Sword back into its pedestal, which transports you into some sort of spiritual realm. It's a nice throwback to Skyward Sword, but it also prevents you from bringing any gear into the trials, where you start only with your hearts, stamina, Sheikah Slate and the Paraglider available. The rest of the inventory is empty and the Champion abilities are disabled as well, so it really limits you to what the trials give you. It's similar to the survival trial of Eventide Island, where you have to work with what the island provides you with (unless you drop stuff before the trial). So, if you like this type of situation, you're in for a ride.

On the one hand this restriction is exciting and understandable, because otherwise you could just cheat through everything with Ancient Arrows (though the Final Trial sort of lets you do that), while the Champion abilities might just slow you down, because you want them to recharge first. On the other hand it diminishes most of your achievements throughout the game. Why would you even bother with collecting the best weapons and gear, if there's no challenge, where you can really use them? A trial cave like this would have been the perfect opportunity to let the players go all out.

Curiously, with the limitations present, the Beginning Trials appear to be the hardest of the three, where in a water area you have to face some stronger Lizalfos with only very limited gear, which is one of the toughest challenges in the game, unless you trick the AI somehow. The later trials let you find more gear and helpful items to prevail on all the floors.

For your troubles you will be able to increase the Master Sword's strength with each trial up to the point, where it's constantly in its glowing state. And that's certainly a useful reward. However, if you're able to get the through the entire Trial of the Sword, it doesn't seem like you need such an upgrade to begin with.


Master Mode



When the first The Legend of Zelda game offered a second difficulty, it completely changed all of its dungeons in the so called "2nd Quest". Ocarina of Time also received a "Master Quest" variant, where the dungeons have been altered in interesting ways. But ever since Skyward Sword, if Zelda players wanted a more challenging playthrough, they had to settle for the simple "Hero Mode" variant, where only the received damage got increased and where you might not find any hearts, besides other small changes. But there were no big alterations anymore.

The "Master Mode" of Breath of the Wild is somewhere in between. It doesn't touch its dungeons, so the Divine Beasts and Sheikah Shrines stay mostly the same, but it adds more enemies in certain locations, which might also lead to some interesting surprises.


The core feature of the Master Mode, however, is that all enemies have moved up one tier. So, all the red Bokoblins now became blue ones and so on. They did leave single specimens of the lowest tier enemies for you to find, so you can still take pictures for Hyrule Compendium. But overall everything has moved up in rank, where the Master Mode even introduces new golden enemies that didn't exist in Normal Mode. But their main difference is that they simply have more health than their silver counterparts. Health can be a deciding factor, however, because all enemies now regenerate. This adds a sense of urgency to all battles, where some of the bosses, which are able to evade you for a time, even provide a tough challenge.

Probably the biggest addition to Master Mode are the floating platforms everywhere, which might transport enemies or additional treasure chests. The chests often provide you with better weapons, so that dealing with all the upgraded enemies isn't completely unbalanced. But the platforms themselves are probably the most interesting part, because they add a layer of aerial exploration to the game, which wasn't there before.


Master Mode lets you start over, but it does come with its own save slots (one auto and one manual save), where you can switch between your Normal Mode and Master Mode saves at any time.

(As a side note, there's a technical issue, where Normal Mode and Master Mode share the same files for personal pictures in Hyrule Compendium. So, if you take a picture in any mode, it will be overwritten in the other, unless you're using the purchasable stock pictures. Playing Master Mode on a different profile prevents this issue, however.)


The Champions' Ballad



This is more or less the core part of the Expansion that came with the second DLC Pack of the same name. It adds a series of new main quests to the game that are accessible after you've beaten all four Divine Beasts. You're then invited back to the Great Plateau, where it all started.

There you are greeted by the One-Hit Obliterator Trial, where you carry a weapon that defeats all foes in a single hit, but you're also reduced to a quarter heart, which means that every little scratch will kill you as well. Anyone, who has played the "Don't get hit!" missions in Hyrule Warriors should be already familiar with this type of gameplay. You're confined to the one melee weapon, but you can use everything else in your inventory, where you might heavily rely on bows and playing it safe from the distance. You have to clear four enemy camps that lead to new shrines, where one of them stands out in this scenario with a long series of now very deadly spiked traps.

This can be fun, but for the most part it feels like more like a turn-off that gets in the way for the more enjoyable part of the DLC. So, it probably would have been a good idea to keep it separate. As a reward you get enough Spirit Orbs for another Heart Container or Stamina Vessel (you still can't maximize both, however, even with the DLC) and it creates obelisks near the Divine Beast that show you locations of three additional trials per Champion. It's a big scavenger hunt all over the areas and probably the most guided part of the game, but you can still do all the trials in any order.

The individual Trials of the Champions have you chase through blue light rings at a fast pace, fight new enemies on the overworld (which includes two new variants of existing overworld bosses) or pass other smaller tests. Each of them lead to an additional Shrine, where all shrines in the DLC feature completely new puzzles and trials, so there are no normal "Tests of Strength" or any "Blessings", which filled up the shrine count in the main game.

Some of the new shrines turn out rather simple, if you already have full protection against flames or electricity. Others provide more complex puzzles, where especially the Mah Eliya Shrine as part of Mipha's Trials has spawned lots of different videos with creative solutions all over the Internet. These 12 new shrines don't reward you with the usual Spirit Orbs, however, but with Emblems of the Champions.


These Emblems can be traded at the Divine Beasts to enter them again in so called Realms of Memories. These let you battle the bosses of the Divine Beasts again in obscured visions, which feels similar to the boss encounters in Ganon's Tower of the Wind Waker. You also get pre-defined inventories, which again tries to create some sort of challenge by stripping you of all your (overpowered) stuff. But only one of the bosses offers a real challenge due to the inventory limitations, especially in Master Mode. Afterwards you can also chose to re-battle the bosses anytime you wish, which is certainly nice to have.

As a reward the corresponding Champion abilities recharge now much faster, which is of similar value to the upgraded Master Sword. You will also receive new Memories of how Princess Zelda recruited the Champions, which adds some beautiful moments to the overall story.


If you're done with all the trials, the game invites you to the Final Trial, the new dungeon of the DLC. It's essentially another Divine Beast, which combines elements of all the four other Divine Beasts. It's again similar to Ganon's Tower in the Wind Waker, where you have a central room with a big door that opens after you've cleared the four individual rooms. Such a final dungeon, where the rooms are based on the individual dungeons of the game, can be even considered as a staple in the series, where for example Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask or Skyward Sword did this as well. It's nice that Breath of the Wild now received something similar, but you also shouldn't expect too much here, because they kept things rather short and simple.

The ability to alter the dungeon at any time, in this case the direction of gears that would effect all the rooms, felt special as usual. The visuals of the dungeon, however, are pretty much the same as in the others.


The boss of the dungeon is a nice surprise, however, and certainly one of the absolute highlights of the DLC. And Nintendo also thought of the option to fight this boss again at any time, if you want.

As a reward for the first victory you receive the Master Cycle Zero, which is certainly the most fun addition to this game. You can summon it almost everywhere (major exceptions being Death Mountain and the desert) via a new Sheikah Slate Rune, you have full control over it and you can even make small jumps, where the bike lets you climb steep hills in ways that wouldn't have been possible with horses. Horses may still have other advantages like speed or autonomy, but overall the Master Cycle Zero completely outclasses them, where its only downside is that you need to refuel it every so often. But at least that way you have a new use for the many materials that you keep collecting throughout the game.

Essentially making its way into Zelda over from Mario Kart 8, the Master Cycle Zero does feel "out of place" at first. But it still fits the theme of Sheikah Technology in the game and it's so much fun to travel the vast lands of Hyrule with this new mount that you quickly get used to its presence in the game.



New Old Things


What's noteworthy about the DLC is that other than the new armor pieces and the Master Cycle Zero there aren't really any new assets in this package. Most of it simply recycles and remixes things that already have been in the game. So, you shouldn't expect any new themes for dungeons for example, it's just more of the old stuff, even though here and there it creates some interesting combinations. The new enemies are mostly just reskins and resizes of existing foes as well.

While the new boss looks completely new, even there they managed to cleverly combine existing models and animations to create something different. It's probably the pinnacle of what you can achieve by reusing assets, but at least there new music pieces around the Champions' Ballad, which include tracks for the new dungeon and boss and which are pretty amazing.

Nintendo is known for keeping things compact in size and maybe that's the reason they did this, but it's clear that the DLC didn't get the full attention of the entire development team. They are probably keeping the good stuff for a sequel, but it's still a shame that they couldn't put a little more effort into the DLC to go the extra mile with Breath of the Wild, a game that certainly would deserve the care and attention


Final Thoughts


Overall Nintendo played it safe by relying on the typical types of add-on contents that the series has seen before, like new outfits, a new difficulty mode, a trial cave dungeon or re-battling bosses. All of this works very well as DLC, but because most of these features had been part of the whole package in past Zelda releases, fans might feel cheated out of something that the game should have per default.

It's especially troublesome with additions that serve as basic improvements for the game, like the ability to call your horse from everywhere or some indicator for hidden Koroks. In that case Nintendo crossed a line, where they should have provided these features via free updates, instead of paid DLC.

Also, the integration of the new armor has been sloppy at best and most of the DLC simply recycles existing assets, where it feels like the majority of the development team already left, when they started working on the DLC. It feels like Nintendo didn't really care about the DLC, which is a shame.

A common theme in all of the DLC are trials, where the game either takes away all your hearts, your abilities or parts of your inventory to create an artificial challenge. It doesn't try to create a challenge for those, who have enhanced all their armor, collected very good gear and alike, where there's seemingly no real endgame challenge other than taking on the new golden enemies in Master Mode. And in that sense the DLC is absolutely lacking.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Breath of the Wild: Small Ideas for a Sequel


In my previous post I came up with a general setting for a sequel to Breath of the Wild, which in this case was a remake of Link's Awakening. In this post I want to go through some basic ideas of what Nintendo could do in a sequel to improve the game and its mechanics in general.

This is really about small ideas that add to what they were trying to achieve in Breath of the Wild. So, if you don't like its open world, the inventory system, breakable weapons or the absence of traditional dungeons, then you're looking in the wrong spot here. Sure, some of it probably will change in later Zelda games, but with a direct sequel on the Nintendo Switch we shouldn't expect any ground-breaking changes. Instead Nintendo will probably look into refining the new formula, so let's discuss for now what could be done better.


More Weapon and Shield Variety


Breath of the Wild has four basic weapon types that are also reflected in the four Divine Beasts and its Champions: one-handed melee weapons (in combination with shields), two-handed melee weapons, spears and bows. Any weapon in the game is essentially just a variation of one of the four types, so even Rods and Boomerangs are just one-handed melee weapons, even though they offer some extra functionality.

Those extra functionalities created a good part of the variety, especially with the game's main elements: fire, ice and electricity. There are variants for arrows and all three melee weapon types in these elements.

The shields got the short end of the stick, however. There are mostly just that, shields, with only the Ancient and Guardian Shields offering something different. For a sequel it would be nice to have Elemental Shields. Flame Shields could burn enemies, when they hit them. Frost Shields would freeze them and Shock Shields would zap them. Additionally there could be a Gust Shield that creates a stream of air via a propeller in front of you. It might even serve as a "Hover Shield" while shield surfing.

Mirror Shields also have been absent in the series ever since the Wind Waker and the Minish Cap, which is a shame, because reflecting light and enemy attacks was a nice functionality, where in this case they could auto-parry beam attacks. Light could even become another main element in the game similar to the Light Arrows in past games. There could be Light Blades, Light Spears and alike that would kill dark/cursed foes instantly, but offer only little durability.

It also would be nice to have more weapon types in general or at least more weapon functionalities, where Whips, Balls & Chains and Flails come to mind. But then again, whips could just be implemented as another one-handed melee weapon, while a Ball & Chain would probably work like the two-handed blades in animation as well. Boomerangs on the other hand probably should have worked more differently with a target functionality like in the Wind Waker or Twilight Princess. Boomerangs really have become quite useless in Breath of the Wild with the way they are now and should receive an overhaul in the sequel.


Inventory Stashes


That's a simple one. Similar to how you have stables from where you can access all your horses at any time, there should be a large inventory stash that can be accessed from any village, stable and alike. You can put any weapons, armor or food there, which you want to save for later. It would be similar to the Item Check in Skyward Sword, with the main difference that this stash can be accessed from multiple locations.


More Mounts


That's another "simple" one. Breath of the Wild lets you ride many different creatures, but the main focus was certainly on horses and with the end of the DLC on the Master Cycle Zero. A sequel should expand to new mounts for different areas, whether they are mechanical or living.

There could be a small motor boat to travel the oceans or some fast fish creature that can be rented from the Zora. There could be a lizard creature that helps you climb steep terrains. And there ultimately could be a flying mount like a Loftwing or a small airplane. The more mobility, the better.


Lighting and Gravity Physics


Breath of the Wild was the first Zelda game, where Nintendo fully utilized a physics engine for all kinds of stuff. And this was really fun and impressive. It allowed for lots of experimentation in puzzles, new ways of combating foes, even spectacular methods of throwing Link through the world.

A sequel should expand the physics engine to new areas. First of all, there should be a better lighting engine. The one in Breath of the Wild does its job, but it looks quite "fake" in various areas, especially in completely dark places like the Typhlo Ruins. Ideally light would look more real and you would be able to reflect it for puzzles, which wouldn't even be a new thing in the series, because the Nintendo 64 Zeldas and the Wind Waker did this before. This would go hand in hand with new light-based weaponry.

Another physics feature that they could use for manipulation would be gravity. There could even be a new Gravity Rune, where inside the field everything moves slower and you're able to perform larger jumps. Gravity could also be flipped and make you walk on walls, something they already had tried with magnetic fields in Twilight Princess.


Fix the Food


Eating everything at any time has proven to be quite overpowered. In previous Zelda games you could bring a limited supply of potions, while in Breath of the Wild you can store up to 60 food items in your inventory and also eat various "materials" like apples or meat.


Nerf this!

What's especially broken are any "hearty" or "enduring" recipes, which added additional hearts or stamina bars, because with just one ingredient you can get yourself a full refill of hearts or stamina. This could be fixed by removing the refill, so they'll only add the yellow hearts or stamina wheels, but the depleted hearts and stamina will remain the same. This will give the player a bigger incentive to invest in different recipes, instead of cooking the same simple meal dozens of times.

A "cookbook" that remembers any recipes that you created or that were found in stables and villages would also be a nice idea and invite players to experiment more with this feature of the game.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Song of the Island - A Sequel Idea to Breath of the Wild and Link's Awakening


Soft piano music is playing. We see wide beaches with palm trees and seagulls flying around. A dark and mysterious forest. An area full of water rapids. Treacherous mountains. A castle behind a wide prairie. It all feels familiar, yet different.

Wake up, Link...

A thunderstorm. A mechanical beast, similar to a Guardian, is shown running over a graveyard. Other dark monsters appear. The camera pans over the lands, revealing an island with a large mountain in the center. On top of the mountain resides a dark cocoon.

Wake up, Link...

Links looks in the eyes of a young woman. Her face looks very similar to that of Princess Zelda, but she has red hair with a hibiscus in it.

My name's Marin. You're on Koholint Island!

The trailer gains momentum. A piano variant of the main theme of Link's Awakening is played. We see Link traveling various places by horse, bike and even a boat. We see pieces of dungeon gameplay. We see action scenes with Link fighting against different monsters, including the mechanical beasts.

We call them "nightmares".

The trailer blends to other characters, familiar faces, yet distinctively different. We see Daruk as the leader of the Goron tribe. He's wearing an eye patch and raises a crusher, while speaking to a Goron crowd.

We Gorons ain't afraid of nothing!!

We see Revali flying in an updraft towards the top of what appears to be the Eagle's Tower.

No one ever dared to take this challenge!

We see Mipha riding down a waterfall that splits in half.

These waters have been our home for as long as I can remember.

We see Urbosa riding a Sand Seal through the desert.

Nothing keeps me awake like the feeling of uncertainty.

We can hear Kass playing a familiar tune on the accordion, in view of the large mountain at the center of the island.

This is an ancient verse passed down on this island called The Ballad of the Wind Fish... Would you like to hear it?

The game's title is revealed to be "The Legend of Zelda: Song of the Island". And we hear Marin one last time.

In the end, it all might be just a dream, right...?


...


Yes, we can still dream. I admit that this reads like a glorified piece of fan service fiction, but this is a vision I had earlier this week, after I finally had completed my first playthrough of Breath of the Wild and also faced my 20th Anniversary with Link's Awakening. So, I had this epiphany of combining them both and I decided to record this idea here.

In general I would like for Breath of the Wild to receive a sequel on the same lines as Link's Awakening or Majora's Mask, where Link sets out to explore a new land and faces a certain darkness. And the idea of remaking Link's Awakening as a true 3D Zelda game is as old as it gets, probably the most common hope for a Zelda remake there is. You can't blame the fans here really, because who wouldn't want to experience the island of Koholint from a 3D perspective?


Breath of the Wild essentially had a nod to this with its Eventide Island. And I loved that part of the game, where I could imagine a full blown sequel with Link being stranded on some mysterious island. He loses all of his equipment, but also part of his memories, which you can recall in certain places. This way you will learn about what happened in Hyrule, after Calamity Ganon was defeated, about Link's adventures with Zelda and how he ended up on the island in the first place. It also might reveal new memories about his past 100 years ago, where we learn even more about the old Hyrule before its destruction and the Champions.

Apropos Champions, with the game being set in a dream world, which also was shaped by Link's personal memories, it would allow to use familiar characters again, even characters that already died. It would be similar to Termina, where you could meet the characters from Ocarina of Time in different roles. Zelda will be Marin, King Rhoam might become the new Tarin and we would be able to see the Champion characters in new roles as well. Aonuma already said in an interview that he would like to use the Champions again (source), where something tells me that this won't be restricted to Hyrule Warriors 2.

Of course Koholint would be much larger than in the GameBoy original and you might even be able to explore the oceans around the island per boat. The "nightmares" would represent the corrupted technology and Calamity Ganon, while the whole game would be about Link's personal journey to process the past...

Nintendo normally doesn't do this level of fan service, but it would serve both as a worthy sequel to Breath of the Wild and as a "remake" of Link's Awakening at the same time. And I would be really hyped for that.

Breath of the Wild: Master Works Confirms Timeline "Placement"


Earlier this year I made a post about the timeline placement of Breath of the Wild, where the game seemingly takes place in an era, where all past Zelda games are mere stories and legends passed down by people. Everything happened and everything also sort of didn't happen. And during E3 last year it occurred to me that Nintendo purposefully left clues for all three timeline branches to confuse the fans and have them speculate, which worked splendidly. At the time I even came up with the crazy Timeline Merge Theory, but in its essence is was supposed to achieve the same thing, really. Something, where the past of Zelda is united, because ultimately you don't want such an important game to be reduced to a single timeline branch.

In the new book, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Master Works all of this now got confirmed. You can find the quotes SourceGaming.info or on Reddit. The first one confirms the "all past Zelda stories are just legends" theory:

The kingdom of Hyrule has a long and storied past, where the events of one era may just be ancient myths in another. Since olden times, the land has repeatedly undergone periods of prosperity and decline, so much so that it is unknown whether the legends passed down are actually true, or simply fairy tales.

The second quote is from Eiji Aonuma himself, where he confirms that they wanted the fans to speculate:

The books that have been released so far, such as Hyrule Encyclopedia, have revealed the Zelda series timeline. However, we’ve decided not to make it so clear for Breath of the Wild, and there’s a reason why.

This time, we saw a lot of users playing the game in their own way, which is something we were anticipating. They’re also having fun coming up with their own ideas about the story, based on the fragments we put in place.

If Breath of the Wild was confined to a timeline, then that placement would be correct and there wouldn’t be room for coming up with your own impressions, which would be boring. That kind of speculation is something that we wanted to continue after playing the game, so we purposely decided not to make a statement about it. We’d like everyone to enjoy finding their own answers, in their own way.

That settles it. And I personally think that this was a smart move. The whole timeline discussions were a big part of the Zelda community, which sort of died with Hyrule Historia, unless you really didn't like the "official" timeline. Breath of the Wild ignited the flame again and there's no real truth. All the past Zelda games are now legends and not everything can be correct. But the Fans can keep speculating about which of the three timeline branches is the one, where Breath of the Wild takes place, without ever coming to an agreement, because there is no real solution...

It's genius, really. This way Breath of the Wild also offers a "soft reboot", where new games can take place in its age of technology, free from the limitations that the original timeline split brought with it, where they can build on the entire past of the Zelda series. At the same time they can still create new "legends" in the classic timelines and develop the tales and events there even further, if they want.
(I described this in my previous article, Modern vs. Classic Zelda, already.)

After Breath of the Wild: Modern vs. Classic Zelda


Breath of the Wild changed things. A lot of things. It finally brought Zelda back to an open world formula. It used modern video game technology to let us seamlessly explore a massive overworld, to let us climb over every mountain and to let us play with physics. It hid over a hundred mini dungeons in that world and turned normal dungeons into gigantic mechanic beasts. It introduced the Sheikah Technology in a far future of Hyrule, where we fight living ancient machines with ancient weapons. So much has changed, but it's still undeniably Zelda. The Modern Zelda.

Series produces Eiji Aonuma already stated in April in an interview with Famitsu (source) that "open air" will most likely become the new standard for the series. But does that mean classic Zelda will be gone? The Zelda with a clear course, traditional dungeons, weapons that don't break and walls that are actual obstacles? Not every part of Breath of the Wild received pure praise, where some Zelda fans seem to miss the old times already.

I think, Nintendo will continue to produce both, but there will be a clear split in design:

Modern Zelda


  • 3rd Person Perspective
  • Open World Climb'n'Glide Gameplay
  • Age of Ancient Technology

Classic Zelda

  • Top Down or Side Scrolling Perspective
  • Traditional Zelda Gameplay
  • Takes Place in Old Timelines

So, essentially the big 3D Zelda games will continue to evolve the "open air" formula, while smaller 2D Zelda games will provide the classic formula. With the success of Breath of the Wild, next big game will most likely be developed for Nintendo Switch and based on the open world engine. It would be weird, if it suddenly became a sequel to Twilight Princess, following its approach. It will most likely become a true sequel to Breath of the Wild, where the game continues to explore the setting of ancient technology, far in the distant future.

In the meantime we might see Zelda on Smartphones and even on the Switch with side projects, where Grezzo currently seems to be developing something. And here it would be weird, if a new topdown Zelda game suddenly lets you climb all the walls and has Guardians chasing you down with laser beams... With the classic perspectives comes the classic experience, where the games will also most likely continue the stories somewhere in the old timelines.

This doesn't mean that both classic and modern Zelda won't be brought closer together potentially. A Link Between Worlds already experimented with an open order of dungeons and the ability to move along worlds for more freedom. At the same time a sequel to Breath of the Wild might offer more traditional dungeons. So, it won't just be all black and white.

About Zelda multiplayer... This can go any way. Aonuma already stated at E3 last year (source) that he would like to create a multiplayer experience based on Breath of the Wild, where something like a MMORPG comes to mind. But if they do another level based game in the style of Four Swords or Tri Force Heroes, it will most likely follow the classic concept.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Games of the Year 2000 - 2017


What's your Game of the Year 2017? If your answer isn't "Breath of the Wild", chances are that you haven't played the game. This might seem presumptuous, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild clearly was one of the most ground-breaking games this year with its "Climb'n'Glide" approach for the open world genre. It sold the Nintendo Switch and it even sold Wii Us to those, who couldn't get a Switch. It also won many "Game of the Year" awards already, including the Golden Joystick Awards and TIME Magazine's Best Games of 2017, as well as the infamous Game Awards, where they showed the trailer for the Champions' Ballad DLC. (Here you can find a comprehensive list of all this year's GotY awards, over 80 in total.)

I've spent over 600 hours with Breath of the Wild and I've also written over a hundred posts on this blog about the game this year, so it's clear that this is by all certainty my Game of the Year 2017. If you're a reader of this blog, you most likely concur with this choice.

Now, picking a GotY probably never has been as easy for me as this year and that made me reflect on what my picks were in the past. So, I decided to compile a list of all my "Games of the Year":

  • 2000: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  • 2001: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Seasons
  • 2002: Unreal Tournament 2003
  • 2003: Unreal II - The Awakening
  • 2004: Unreal Tournament 2004
  • 2005: Unreal Championship 2 - The Liandri Conflict
  • 2006: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • 2007: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
  • 2008: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
  • 2009: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
  • 2010: Unreal Tournament 3 - Black Edition
  • 2011: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • 2012: Minecraft
  • 2013: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • 2014: Hyrule Warriors
  • 2015: The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
  • 2016: Hyrule Warriors - Legends
  • 2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

That's some slightly weird list, isn't it? Some of these choices shouldn't be all that surprising, others might seem odd. But let me explain. First of all, keep in mind that these lists are limited to the scope of what I've been playing all those years. Overwatch for example looks great and was the Game of the Year 2016 for many, but I haven't played it yet.

In my case there are only few criteria for a potential Game of the Year. First and foremost it has to be a game, where I spent a significant amount of freetime during that year playing and enjoying it, as well as thinking or writing about the game. Ideally this game was also released in that year and something new and not just a port or a remaster, though there are exceptions to this clause, e.g. if the port has lots of new content, like Hyrule Warriors - Legends in 2016.

This list starts with the year 2000, because Majora's Mask was the first game, which I bought on its release day, followed by the Oracle games the year after. The years 1998 and 1999 certainly also had amazing gems with Ocarina of Time, Unreal and Unreal Tournament, but I didn't play these games in the year they were released (it was Christmas 1999, where I got Ocarina of Time).

But I still remember, how I went to the newsdealer buying Nintendo magazines just to have some pictures of "Mask of Mujula", as well as "Acorn of the Mysterious Tree", the new exciting Zelda games. Those were the times, before everyone had a broadband internet connection, but I still have those articles stored in a my "Zelda folder" and they surely bring back memories. Good times.

Well, it shouldn't be a big surprise that I have many Zelda games on that list. Even if I consider some of them to be "inferior Zelda games", those were still the games that excited me the most during that year. Twilight Princess for example is a game that kind of disappointed me, after I've first played it, but it doesn't change the fact that this was the game that defined 2006 for me and I was really hyped for it, maybe a little too hyped. I also liked Phantom Hourglass quite a lot, when it first came out, probably more than most people.

And with this blog I automatically spent a lot of time with any new Zelda release, which certainly was the case with Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword, even though I could compile big lists with issues about them. Tri Force Heroes is despised by many, but it was something that I wanted for a long time (an online multiplayer Four Swords game) and I enjoyed it a lot, while it lasted, even spent over 200 hours with the game. At least A Link Between Worlds is a very good Zelda game that ended up as my Game of the Year 2013 and probably not just for me.

What might be surprising to you is the gap between 2002 and 2005, where Unreal used to be my absolute favorite game series and I wasn't much of a Zelda fan at the time. The GameCube and the comic style Wind Waker just weren't "cool" enough for a teenage boy. It wasn't before 2005, where I was able to try the 20 minute demo of the Wind Waker on the Collector's Edition disc and a demo of Twilight Princess on the Games Convention in Leipzig that I decided to purchase a GameCube and finally catch up with the franchise again. I did get The Minish Cap on release, though, but it didn't make the list, because it just couldn't compete with Unreal Tournament 2004. I spent a lot of time with the Unreal games back in the day, playing all game modes up and down, even building maps with the Unreal Editor. And I had a really good time with them, which is why they dominate the years 2002 to 2005.

I also played a lot of Unreal Tournament 3, but not before 2010, which is why this game shouldn't have made this list, because it actually came out in 2007 and therefore technically doesn't really qualify. But the game wasn't really finished, before Epic released the "Titan Pack" update and the "Black Edition" on Steam in 2009, the year before. And the only other real choice for 2010 would have been Metroid: Other M, probably the most despised Metroid game... And I don't even have any other Metroid games on my list yet, so this would be a toxic choice. I didn't get into the franchise before 2008 and the only other Metroid games that I got on release were the Metroid Prime Trilogy and just recently Samus Returns. The Trilogy is probably a close second to Spirit Tracks in 2009, but I decided to go with the new game. And Samus Returns is certainly great, but not competition to Breath of the Wild.

Minecraft also isn't a 2012 game, but I started with version 1.1, which came out in January 2012. So, let's pretend that this counts, because this game had to be on my list, after I spent about two years being sucked into it. Only the big Zelda wave that started in 2013 could save me from that addiction, where this was my true open world game before Breath of the Wild.

But looking back I had a good time with every single one of these games and I'm eager to find out what my future Games of the Year will be, starting with 2018. Something tells me, it might be another Zelda again.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

20 Years as a Zelda Fan


I'm currently celebrating my 20th Anniversary with the Zelda franchise! It was Christmas 1997, when I first got my hands on a Zelda game - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for the original GameBoy, my first own video game system. You know, the one that looks like a grey brick. I was 11 years old at the time and this game was pure magic, my first real love in gaming. Before Zelda I mostly liked the Super Mario Land series, especially 6 Golden Coins and Wario Land. But with both games my main fascination was always about the islands, where you would "explore" the individual areas and find hidden paths.

At the time we also had the "Club Nintendo Magazine" in Germany, made by Nintendo themselves. This magazine was free and it was basically just advertisement, where every game was reviewed as "great". But as kids we still loved it, because it was still something in a time, where broadband Internet connections weren't established yet. Magazines and TV were our sources for news. And it was in this magazine, where I stumbled over Link's Awakening. To be more accurate, it was the following article in issue #4/1997 that drew my attention to the game and led to the birth of yet another Zelda fan:


(scan source: ZeldaEurope.de)

At the time Link's Awakening got added to the "Classix" series, which is similar to today's "Nintendo Selects". So, this is why the magazine featured the game in the year 1997. It promised an adventure on a mysterious island, which you could explore in a seamless fashion. It was basically what I always wanted from the Super Mario Land games. And for weeks I would keep studying this article, imagining how the game would be like. This was a special feeling of excitement that I can still recall today. And I still have this article, amongst many others, kept in a special Zelda filing folder.

After I finally got the game, I also remember, how I hummed the Tail Cave melody in the car during the Christmas days, because I had this Earmoldorm, after I was stuck in the dungeon for quite a while. At first I didn't know that you could have side scrolling tunnels connecting rooms and I thought I had to drop into the right abyss to reach another floor, because the manual mentioned that. It was funnily stupid, but the first Zelda game is always the hardest... and I had similar problems with other puzzles in the game. I was stuck in Level 6 for weeks, because I didn't realize that the "eyes of the map" could have rooms inside of them. And the infamous pillar puzzle in the Eagle's Tower certainly also took me quite a while. But it was part of the fun and as kids we didn't have many games, so it was nice when a game lasted long. Today I can complete it within four hours, where it has become a small Christmas tradition for me to replay the game.

The next big stop was Ocarina of Time, but before that I borrowed a Nintendo Entertainment System from a buddy at school together with Zelda II - The Adventure of Link, as well as The Legend of Zelda from another classmate. Because I had to return the NES after a while, I wasn't able to finish both games back then, but I was motivated enough to make it to the final dungeons. It was exciting for me to discover the origins of the Zelda series, for example what enemies already existed in the first game. And I wanted to learn as much as possible about the Zelda games, where only five of them existed at the time (not counting the LCD or BS-X games).

At Christmas 1999 it was finally time for a Nintendo 64 (I got the grape purple one) and Ocarina of Time, one year after the original release of the game. Best Christmas present ever. Again I had Club Nintendo articles as a source of wonder for how the game ultimately would be like and where I couldn't wait to finally experience it on my own. I still remember the awe of my first playthrough and how I was scared to enter the Royal Family's Tomb again, because I died to a Redead there, which kept me from the best weapon against them for a while. It's funny, how my memories about the (early) Zelda games often revolve around my biggest fails. But it's the parts where you really get stuck that stick with you.

But what also stuck was the amazing atmosphere of this game, created by the sound and music. When the windmill ratters through the night of Kakariko and you hear the bird sounds in the distance, it still gives me the chills. And I would keep listening to the (Club Nintendo) soundtrack, because it was so amazing and magical.

In 2000 we had multiple Zelda games in the making with Capcom's episodes on the GameBoy Color and Majora's Mask (or "Zelda Gaiden", how it was first called), where I kept collecting multiple articles from different video game magazines. I also didn't want to wait for Christmas anymore, so I bought these games at the day of release from my well saved pocket money. And I spent a lot of time with them, especially with Majora's Mask, where the world of Termina with its even greater atmosphere really sucked me in and the three-day-cycle let me replay any part of the game at any time. And with the Oracle games I was excited to get more than one new Zelda game in the same style as Link's Awakening.

I was truly a big Zelda fan already, but things changed with the Wind Waker and the Nintendo GameCube around 2002, because both weren't really what I had in mind as a teenager for the future of Zelda. Things had to be dark and cool and not some Cartoon Zelda on a console that looked like a child's toy. As I matured, I learned to accept and enjoy all Zelda games for what they are, but for the time being I only upgraded to a GameBoy Advance SP in 2003. With the system I had access to A Link to the Past and later also the NES Classics, so I could finally complete those Zelda games.

A Link to the Past had eluded me for the longest time, because I didn't own a Super Nintendo and I also didn't know anyone with one. More than any other Zelda game, this game grew in my imagination as I studied pictures and articles in old Club Nintendo magazines. But unlike the games before, it couldn't live up to that "hype", however, which is probably why A Link to the Past never really was among my top favorites, despite this being a true classic.

With it came also Four Swords on the GameBoy Advance, another Zelda game that would elude me for many years, until I finally would complete it in 2011. But at the time I wasn't really happy about the multiplayer, because there was no one around to play with. Many schoolmates had played Link's Awakening and many wanted to play Ocarina of Time. But starting with Majora's Mask, the interest seemed to diminish, which later was also true for me with the Wind Waker...

When I did my military service in the end of 2004, the Minish Cap was released on the GameBoy Advance, which was perfect timing, because I had to travel per train for long distances each week. I was already able to try the game at the Games Convention 2004 in Leipzig, so I was looking forward to this for a while. My Zelda game time then caught the attention of a roommate, who later brought his GameCube to our room, because he wanted me to help him collect all Heart Pieces in Majora's Mask on the Collector's Edition disc. The same disc also came with a demo for the Wind Waker, where I tried the game for the first time and really liked it. I loved Windfall Island and I was positively surprised, how the toon style still could be used to render atmospheric dungeons.

At the time a first trailer of Twilight Princess also made the round - the one were the audience cheered at E3 2004. I could even try a demo of the game at the Games Convention 2005, which then finally convinced me to buy a GameCube. This led to a good time in Fall 2005, where I could play through the Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time - Master Quest and Four Swords Adventures one after another, finally catching up with the Zelda series again. It felt great and after this, I would get every new Zelda game on launch day.

By then I also had set my roots in the world wide web, roaming various Internet communities to correspond with fellow Zelda fans. What I used to have earlier in the school, I now got from online forums. And the hype for Twilight Princess certainly was real, when the game was about to be released in 2006. But it also couldn't live up to it, really. Despite this being the longest and largest Zelda game up to date, thanks to its high linearity for me it felt like the game never really started, when the credits finally rolled over the screen. There was simply not enough to explore...

Still, I got a Nintendo DS with Phantom Hourglass in 2007 and at the time I liked it quite a lot, where in the next year I would start to write this blog about Zelda. From there you can follow my journey here in great detail. And by now we finally have arrived at the next big milestone for the series with Breath of the Wild, where it will be very interesting to see, how the series will evolve from now on.

What hasn't changed in all this time is this special thrill of anticipation, the excitement when a new Zelda game is coming, much like when I was awaiting Link's Awakening for Christmas in 1997. Only the Zelda series is really able to create this feeling for me and it's the reason why I keep writing this blog, speculating about future Zelda games and sharing my experiences with playing the new and the old ones. It's the Zelda magic.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Breath of the Wild: Future Updates?

Breath of the Wild should be finally done - according to Aonuma in an interview with Famitsu, the Champions' Ballad DLC really was the finale (source). I already thought so, when they named the new dungeon "the Final Trial", because this gave it away quite clearly. But it's good to have an official confirmation.

So, we shouldn't expect a second Expansion Pass, because that doesn't seem like a thing for Nintendo. So far this only happened with Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U and only because they made a new version of the game for Nintendo 3DS and wanted to add the new characters and weapons to the old game as well. But with Breath of the Wild it is safe to assume that from now on they will put their focus on developing a sequel for the Nintendo Switch.

However, it's still entirely possibly that Breath of the Wild will receive further updates for free to improve the game and to add some little things. They could do another collaboration like they did for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or they might support any upcoming Zelda amiibo in the next year. A Spirit Tracks Toon Link amiibo for example, where you can receive the Engineer's Clothes and the Lokomo Sword in Breath of the Wild, would be fun. But most importantly they should still fix some smaller glitches, problems and oversights with the game.

I did compile similar lists in the past, like this one back in May, and most of the mentioned improvements still hold, if they weren't fixed already... But with this post I want to focus on the bullet points, where I think that there's still a chance that Nintendo might actually do something about them in potential updates. They have shown with past updates (specifically 1.3.1 and 1.3.3) that they are willing to fix and improve certain things, so this is where I draw my hopes from.

I apologize, if I sound like a broken record about some of it, but it's better to repeat these issues, before they end up as unheard, especially now that Miiverse is gone, where Nintendo previously got lots of feedback for their games.

MUST FIX

This stuff was broken from the beginning and it should be Nintendo's obligation to finally fix them:

  • Fix the unobtainable chests
    There's a series of chests in the game that you just can't get. One at/under Hateno Village, one at/under Rassla Lake, one at Aris Beach and one at/under the Old Man's Hut (if you did get the Warm Doublet from him directly). Those still tickle your Sheikah Sensor+, if it's set for treasure chests, but there's no way to currently get them, except for the one at Aris Beach, where you might be able to break it free with a lot of Magnesis work:


    Screenshot by HylianAngel @ GameFAQs

    Anyway, with the Master Trials DLC update they actually added another glitched chest at Mount Drena, which kept falling from the sky, which they had fixed with version 1.3.3. But for some reason they haven't bothered with the other chests yet and it's our job as fans to keep reminding them.

  • Expand the Armor Inventory
    The inventory of Breath of the Wild can extend to five pages of armor, where you're limited to a total of 100 armor pieces. Too bad that after the release of the Champions' Ballad there are currently 107 individual armor pieces in the game, so no player can ever have a full collection. They probably didn't anticipate for the Salvage Gear set and the four Divine Beast helmets, when Nintendo planned the inventory space, because those are exactly the seven overshoots. Nonetheless they should expand the armor inventory by at least one page, especially if they ever consider to add even more armor via amiibo or as promotional content.

    This can be solved very simply by just adding the space, but a more interesting solution would be buying additional pages for armor (and maybe also food) from Hestu. This would kill two birds with one stone, because there are currently 459 useless Korok Seeds in the game, where there's no good reason to collect them all. Expanding armor and food should be much more expensive to a point, where all 459 leftover seeds are completely used up. But this is for the completionist's sake and a completionist probably wouldn't mind collecting more, if not all Korok Seeds to have enough room for all his armor in the end.


  • UPDATE: Fix the missable Thunder Helm
    With the limited armor inventory there's also another issue related to it, where you can actually miss the Thunder Helm, when you receive it from Riju, while your current armor inventory is full. You won't be noticed and the helm is simply gone. Players, who have missed the helm before, should be able to get it back after the update by talking to Riju. And this also makes expanding the armor inventory much more important.


NICE TO HAVE

The following isn't really a must and with some it feels like Nintendo purposefully doesn't want to do any of it, but I still think that the game would be much rounder and complete, if Nintendo would provide these improvements:

  • Let us climb in the rain without slipping
    That's probably the most requested feature for this game. Climbing is a big part of what makes Breath of the Wild so fun, but even light drizzle will kill this fun in an instant, because climbing wet surfaces makes you slip, where it takes about four times as long and wastes a huge amount of stamina. It's one of the bigger "obstacles" in the game, but it's just random and probably every player would expect some armor ability to negate the slipping later in the game. But there isn't.

    Curiously, the Climbing Gear and Climbing Boots already talk about "no-slip gloves" and "no-slip toes" in their description, but this only makes you climb faster. A patch would simply deliver the promised ability or they could add another pair of boots that does the job.

  • Set Bonus for alternate headgear
    There's plenty of expansive jewelry in the game, which you could wear as an alternative to the different helmets or topknots that sometimes look quite goofy. But sadly most of the jewelry is useless, because they don't provide the Set Bonus that you have normally with the other headgear. The same applies to Sheik's Mask and the Stealth Set. Ideally it would work like in the following example, where the Diamond Circlet still provides the "Ancient Proficiency" Set Bonus together with the Ancient Cuirass and the Ancient Greaves:


    Curiously, when Nintendo added the four Divine Beast Helms in version 1.3.3, they did think of that! They all give the "Ancient Proficiency" Set Bonus like they should. All Nintendo would have to do is make this work with the other examples.

  • Enhancements for the Kilton and EX Armor
    By now there are many armor pieces in the game that just can't be enhanced. It started with the items from Kilton's shop, mainly the infamous Dark Link Set, but absolutely all of the DLC armor can't be enhanced as well. In the end all what Nintendo would have to do is define a list of material requirements, so you can upgrade all the stuff at the Great Fairies:


    With some of the DLC armor there might be a good reason, why you can't upgrade them. Especially Majora's Mask and the Phantom Armor seem broken for items that you can get very early in the game (which is another problem that can't be fixed anymore). But that doesn't mean that all of the DLC armor has to go without enhancements, especially when most of these items become so inferior later in the game that most players probably won't use them at all, which is a shame.

    Previously there was another big issue around DLC armor, where you couldn't re-purchase them. Nintendo did fix this in version 1.3.3 and there's still hope that they might add some enhancements to the DLC armor as well to finally make them equal to most of the base game armor.

  • Dye some of the amiibo and EX Armor
    Similar to how you can't upgrade all of the DLC armor, you also can't dye any of it. And while you can enhance the amiibo stuff, you can't dye them all either. It's understandable with some of the items, but most of it just seems like a case of Nintendo being lazy, because they would have to provide the additional skins for each color.

    But it would be really nice to be able to dye some of it. For example some might want to have a red and blue Cap and Tunic of Time to emulate the Goron and Zora Tunic from Ocarina of Time. And with the Cap and Tunic of the Wind it would be awesome to create a set in the Four Swords colors. Or lets dye Tingle's Set in the colors of his siblings. Combined with more armor inventory space this could even motivate players to collect dyed duplicates of many of the sets. Even more stuff to do in the game!

    You can actually dye all four Divine Beast Helms, by the way. It seems like with these items Nintendo really thought of everything, but why not with all the other stuff?

  • Manual Inventory Sorting
    This might not seem that important, but it's still a frequent request, where players simply want to arrange everything in the inventory how they see fit by pressing the L-Stick or alike. Since the game already remembers the order of how you got the items, this shouldn't be hard to implement.

    On a side note, the Armor Inventory still could use other "quality of life" features like a quick equip, where pressing the X-button will equip the entire set for example.

  • Regional map completion data
    When you start the game, you can see the outlines on the map for the different regions like the Great Plateau, Hyrule Field, West and East Necluda or Akkala. Those lines disappear eventually, when you start to conquer all the towers. With such a feature you could display the regions again by pressing a button and see for each area, if you got all Shrines, Korok Seeds, overworld bosses and maybe even treasure chests. This would help tremendously with completing everything, because you have a way to divide these massive tasks, instead of looking all over the massive world for that last shrine or Korok.

    Past Zelda games even offered similar features already, so it's kind of weird that they deliberately removed this in a game of such a large scale, while at the same time they added Poe Soul counters for each area in Twilight Princess HD...

  • Reset function for Hero's Path Mode
    This is probably self-explanatory. The Hero's Path Mode adds a nice feature to your map, where you can track your last 200 hours of movements on the overworld. But if you want to clear the data, then that's currently not possible. Well, why would you even want to do this? For example when you start looking for all Koroks with the Korok Mask, it's useful to know where you've been for that time only. Or maybe you just want to get rid of those death marks that the One-Hit Obliterator trial left you with...

  • Prevent a few Hyrule Compendium Omissions
    For no good reason, few of the weapons in the game don't get replenished. This includes the Forest Dweller's Sword (there is one at the Test of Wood, but you can't keep or drop it), the Kite Shield and various lower level Lynel gear. Nintendo would just have to put new resources for this stuff somewhere, which they partially even did for the Lynel gear in Master Mode.

    Also, there's currently a small issue in the game, where you can't buy the new EX pictures from Symin, if you previously completed Hyrule Compendium and received the Classified Envelope. It's not a big problem, because all of the new EX entries can be photographed at any time, but it's still an annoyance for those, who prefer to buy the better stock photos.

Let's hope that Nintendo is willing to release additional updates in the future and fix at least some of these points with them. Miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Breath of the Wild: E3 2014 Location?

Do you remember, when Breath of the Wild was first announced in 2014? Back then Aonuma showed an impressive demo at E3 2014 in June and then showed some gameplay together with Miyamoto during the Game Awards in December. This was three years ago and the scenery that was shown back then is barely recognizable in today's game. GameXplain did a nice analysis of the Game Awards footage, where they were able to place it at Hateno Village and the Faron Woods. And much has changed since then! They couldn't identify a part, which was probably around Lake Kolomo, but otherwise they did a good job at placing all of the shown areas.

But what about the original E3 footage? The one from the demo? You know the amazing view of Hyrule, where Link stands on a hill, before a Guardian comes out of nowhere and starts to destroy everything in its path:


Well, I can only make an educated guess, but it does seem to cover the exact same spot as in the Game Awards footage. It's right at Hateno Village:


If you look closely, you can see the similar landmarks. There's the Dueling Peaks in the distance to the left and the Peak of Awakening on the right side. It's just that the landscape originally shown was much vaster and there was a greater distance between those areas. Death Mountain could also be seen to the left of the Peak of Awakening, while now it would be to the right. So a lot has changed since then, but it's still similar. With the above view you even stand above Link's house:


It's funny to imagine that the rustic, little house that can be seen to the left on the original footage was also supposed to be Link's house at the time. Who would have guessed? You can see bits and pieces of a village there, but it looks more like Kakariko than Hateno. It also looked more medieval in general.

Anyway, you have to keep in mind that while the original trailer used a real time engine everything still was made explicitly for this demo footage (source). So, the shown footage wasn't the actual game, which is why everything looked a lot more impressive than it did later on. The mid-air slow motion bow action was even added to the game afterwards, inspired by the trailer.


Apropos, the scene, where the Guardian chases Link through the forest would also be in Faron Woods, at the Zonai Ruins to be exact. You can even find the little wooden bridge there, but it still looks quite different and you can't destroy it, sadly. And it certainly would be quite a task to get a Guardian to chase you right to this point. The closest one would be up next to Tobio's Hollow, but from there it would need to chase you down a hill and through the jungle, which won't be happening... They are a lot less aggressive that they were supposed to be originally.

But it's interesting, how seemingly both the E3 2014 footage and Game Awards 2014 footage take place in the same areas, around Hateno Village and Faron Woods. And it's interesting, how much of their original vision was actually implemented in the meantime and how much it all has involved in over two years.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Breath of the Wild EX Log, Entry 12



Done. 100%. Just right before the end of the year, I've finally completed Breath of the Wild in "Normal Mode", where I finished the final task of collecting all 900 Korok Seeds. This massive journey of a game started in early March and lasted for over 600 hours according to my Wii U, which is a lot, probably a lot longer than for most people. But keep in mind that I usually let the game run while writing this blog or even while doing other things at home, so it's not all pure game time. And I haven't been using any guides, so I kept searching through the wide landscapes of Breath of the Wild again and again in order to find all Sheikah Shrines, overworld bosses and Koroks, instead of clearing everything more efficiently in few swoops.


The Champion Diaries


When I first played the new DLC, the Champions' Ballad, I was kind in a hurry, so I didn't pay much attention to the new dialogues that they added around the four Champions. Kass points out that you should talk to the important persons in the respective towns, but I didn't take the time for this until later. Turns out that for each Champion you can find their diaries and read about their thoughts at the time, which adds some interesting details.

Some of it is fun, other stuff is completely weird, though, especially the part, where Link seemingly was able to best Hylian Knights at the age of 4. If he was around ten years old (like in Ocarina of Time), I wouldn't mind that fact, but four year old Link doing this seems rather extreme. But whatever.

Also, with Revali I had hopes that his diary might redeem his character a little, but instead it even made him look like a bigger douche...


Another nice detail is that you can hang the Picture of the Champions, which you got from Kass, in your house, next to your bed (this only seems to work, when you're finished with purchasing all parts). This was a surprising and beautiful little moment.


Looking for Koroks in All the Right (and Wrong) Places



After leaving my four walls behind, I donned my riding suit to embrace the wild with my brand new bike. This "riding suit" used a Korok Mask instead of a safe helmet (as if Link would ever need that), because it was time to hunt those last little wooden friends. 67 Koroks were left for me to find and I got them all in less than two weeks.

The Master Cycle Zero was a big boost of motivation for that and helped tremendously in exploring the vast areas. To me this was like a completely new way of experiencing the world of Breath of the Wild. But to be fair, I rarely ever used horses, because they seemed inconvenient and they often have a mind of their own. They are very nice to travel swiftly along the roads, but you rarely find Koroks at the roads, you find Koroks by leaving the designated paths and by exploring in all the corners. And the bike really helps with that, because you can summon it absolutely anywhere outside of the Gerudo Desert, Death Mountain and for some reason also Rito Village and Zora's Domain. But if you're in some rocky mountains, you can just summon it and go faster. You don't have to worry about it falling into an abyss, because you can just summon it again right away. It just makes exploring everything so much more fun, convenient and faster.



Otherwise my strategy was using a combination of the Korok Mask and Hero's Path Mode, two features from the Master Trials DLC. I kept studying my path for gaps in the last 200 hours and then I would explore these gaps with the Korok Mask. Often this would lead to nowhere, empty hills with nothing but dirt and rocks, but in the very least the Master Cycle Zero helped covering all that ground quickly. In other cases I hit the jackpot, for example I found three Koroks at the entrance to Gerudo Canyon...

The Master Cycle Zero even prove itself useful in one of the Korok puzzles:


Going by bike (or horse) also prevents random spawns like the various Stal enemies, which is a blessing. One of the most annoying things while looking for Koroks have been the ridiculous amount of Stals popping up every two meters. They either just drain your weapons or you have to take them out inconveniently with bombs. Sometimes, when you leave them in the middle of a fight, the battle music also keeps going on... All that really helps is skipping to the next day or to stay on your bike.

Well, there are many uses to the Master Cycle Zero and one more would be inside the Typhlo ruins, where the headlights actually shine the way...


Still, the dark areas in the game seem completely unfun and broken, because that's not realistic lighting in any way, and I could have saved myself the trouble, because there are no Koroks to find there.

The Master Cycle Zero wasn't my only way of traveling, however, because I also went over various waters with a raft. There's another new "Swift Sail" ability that comes with the Island Lobster Shirt from the newest DLC. If you wear this outfit, rafts are propelled with a lot more power and you can go much faster...


It's so fast indeed that I got thrown off during a Blood Moon or after ramming a Lizalfos in the water. That's a little annoying then, because the raft gains such a great distance that you have to swim for a while to catch up. But it's still fun and a nice hidden feature of one of the new outfits. I'd wish that there were more creative with the other DLC outfits as well and that you actually could enhance them.

What also has been helpful were the enhanced Champion abilities. Especially that Revali's Gale regenerates so fast now increased my mobility and my willingness to climb all kinds of mountains quite a lot. And with Urbosa's Fury engaging enemy camps again is usually also a job done quick.


To finish things up, whenever I felt like I was completely done with searching everywhere within an area, I checked on ZeldaMaps.com or similar online maps to see, if I really got everything. I found about a dozen missing Koroks that way and I'm not really happy about that, because when it comes to Zelda I usually want to do it all on my own, but it was a necessity at the end. The main problem is that the game doesn't provide any area-based data on the map. A Link Between Worlds did that for its Maiamais and that was a really short game. For Twilight Princess HD they even added regional counters for Poe Souls and there were "only" 60 of those. But for the massive amount of 900 Korok Seeds in the largest game world that Nintendo ever has created, for some reason they didn't bother with this.

If I knew, how many Koroks were left in each area, I could focus on clearing every area one after another and I would know, where to search for the remaining few. But the game didn't allow this, all I had was the Korok Mask and Hero's Path Mode, where the latter wasn't entirely useful, because you can't reset it. While I was looking for gaps, my Hero's Path still covered times, where I didn't even have the Korok Mask and ran by some Koroks without noticing.


The Final Koroks


So, where were the final few wooden guys? The last of the last...?

Of course I found about half a dozen more Koroks in the Hebra region. This area gave me trouble from the start, but at least I did found all except two without looking on any solution maps. I also missed a Korok in the icy parts of the Great Plateau, which was devilishly hidden, and my third from last was near Mount Lanayru. So, plenty of Koroks left in the cold. But at least I managed to completely clear the Gerudo Highlands before this.

Anyway, there was a beautiful moment in Tanagar Canyon, where I shot Dinraal for one of his claws and it landed right above a location with a Korok that I had missed so far. That was awesome.

Overall a common puzzle that I discovered multiple times at the end were "dead end rocks". These are simply Koroks hiding under a rock in what appears to be "dead ends" around cliffs. I missed several of those.

My final two Koroks were special, so I will post them directly here:


As a reference, here's how my Hero's Path looks like after scouting for the remaining Koroks and searching almost everywhere:



Tourok 3 - Shadow of Hestu


Well, I knew already what the final reward would be, but it's still fun to finally see this for myself...



Back to Boss




Master Mode?


So, this is it for my "Normal Mode" run of Breath of the Wild. Took me long enough, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. However, there's still the "Master Mode", where I want to fully complete the game a second time next year. But now that I have found everything I will do things more efficiently and use check maps right from the start to clear entire areas in one go, instead of aimlessly exploring everywhere a dozen times. So, this should go a lot faster and the focus of my "Master Log" will be on what has changed in Master Mode and how I had to adapt. This won't happen right away, but later in 2018.

Right now I'm not sure, whether I also want to do this on the Wii U or to play it on the Nintendo Switch. If Nintendo releases a Breath of the Wild Special Edition Switch with both the game and the DLC pre-installed, I'll be getting this. Otherwise I'll play "Master Mode" on the Wii U. There's also the chance that Nintendo releases more updates with some minor content, similar to the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 crossover in version 1.3.3. In this case I might post another small edition of the "EX Log". But for now it's "Buh-bye!"



Current Progress:
  • Main Quests: 19/20
  • Shrine Quests: 42/42
  • Side Quests: 90/90
  • Memories: 23/23
  • Medals of Honor: 3/3
  • Shrines: 136/136
  • Koroks: 900/900
  • Map Rate: 100.00%

All done!